Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: November 20, 2009 Archive

Names in Space

Posted at 5:55 AM on November 20, 2009 by Dale Connelly (15 Comments)

I spent a significant portion of my youth helping my father work on cars in our backyard garage. My role was to hold the flashlight and fetch tools and parts when asked. In our shop, searching for stuff represented about 90% of the overall man-hours, so I knew I was engaged in vital work - the primary task at hand. That's why it makes me happy to know the Space Shuttle Atlantis is delivering a motherlode of spare parts to the International Space Station.
I hope they remembered to label everything. Space is big, and it's hard enough to find that spare fuel pump when you don't have an inconceivably vast emptiness to search through.

Speaking of the bigness of space - one of the many quick ways to see a chunk of money float away forever is to spend it "naming" a star for a loved one. The International Astronomical Union and plain common sense will caution you against this. Scientists identify stars by number and you can't purchase legitimate naming rights for anything in the night sky.

That doesn't stop people from trying to sell you the opportunity, though.

And there are billions of stars out there - in fact there are more genuine stars in the sky than there have ever been in the ranks of TV and movie stars here on Earth, which is saying something because we have a plethora of stars raging around New York and Hollywood at the moment - people you have never heard of and yet, rumor has it, they're extremely famous. Perhaps if we numbered them it would be easier to keep track.

Of course when it comes to our own private use, we can call the stars and the planets whatever we want. Name the moon after your favorite relative to make it seem less foreboding, or because you recognize something in the way it shows up fully lit at least once a month. Just don't expect anyone else to follow suit. Hearing that scientists have discovered water on Uncle Fred would be just plain weird.

How good are you at correctly identifying stars, planets and constellations in the night sky? Do you know what you're doing, or do you improvise, like me?

I've decided to re-name Saturn's moon, Tethys.
I'm calling it "Kirk Douglas". I think it fits.

Penelope Crater Tethys.jpgKirk Douglas_1956_still.jpg

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